Recent Posts by Jean-Marc Pascal

For a Global Approach to Philosophy

All philosophies tend towards the same goal: the acquisition of wisdom, be it through transcendental meditation, spiritual contemplation or rational investigation. In a world open to all sorts of false claims, dangerous reinterpretations and approximations of so called ‘new truths’, philosophy, often under attack from malevolent quarters, has never appeared so urgently needed to repair our dented certainties and restore our belief in the power of objective reason and personal self-enlightenment. In his ambitious work Taking Back Philosophy. A Multicultural Manifesto (Columbia ...

Bergson and Proust on Time and Memory

In his 1910 doctoral thesis entitled Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness, Henri Bergson (1859–1941) argued against the received quantifying method of dividing time into countable units which ignored and simply disposed of its psychological dimension. Instead, he developed a new theory of time, conceived as an essentially subjective experience, introducing the concept of ‘pure duration’ made out of ‘nothing but a succession of qualitative changes, which melt into and permeate one another, without ...

Martin Buber’s ‘I and Thou’ Relation

In an age where identity is being questioned in the light of the latest technological advances in robotics and artificial intelligence, Martin Buber’s thought is a welcome reminder of how our relation with others remains the deepest and most solid foundation of our morality and humanity. Steeped in Jewish theology and culture, Buber (1878–1965) was one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century as he transcended his own Jewish faith to encompass the Christian tradition and offer the ...

Philosophy and May ’68 (Part 1)

Fifty years ago a spontaneous youth movement erupted and spread across the world, threatening to undermine the very foundations of prosperous nations, enjoying full employment and growing consumerism. This student revolt echoed, in scope, the short-lived 1848 revolutions in Europe and like them, ended up in frustration and disillusionment for millions of students and workers. The French ‘events’ of May ’68 encapsulated the essence of a profound social and political ‘malaise’ felt from Paris to San Francisco and Tokyo. Philosophy, ...

The Late Philosophy of Bertrand Russell (Part 2)

The origin and nature of ‘belief’ was Russell’s central philosophical preoccupation throughout his long life. In The Problems, he delineates five different causes which are: A spontaneous unconscious inference between a world like ‘fire’ and a physical, verbal, visual or psychological reaction to it. In this respect, such a belief can be found in animal as well as human behaviour as in the case of a cat rushing to his mistress every time the latter calls out the word ‘fish’ ...

Two Conceptions of Philosophy: Williamson vs Scruton (Part 2)

In his response to Roger Scruton’s conception of philosophy, published in The Times Literary Supplement, dated 3 November 2017, Professor Williamson adopts a measured and rigorous approach, expected of a logician and philosopher of language. He first finds fault with his colleague’s assumption that the subject of experience ‘is not part of the empirical world’. What of the study of historical agents whose motivations can, indeed, be analysed scientifically by ‘adapting one’s methods to the nature of the problem (at ...

The Late Philosophy of Bertrand Russell (Part 1)

By the time My Philosophical Development was published in 1959, forty seven years after The Problems of Philosophy, Russell’s ‘realist’ and ‘atomist’ phases had given way to a form of empiricism grounded in the first-hand experience of common sense but informed by Hume’s philosophy and complemented by some of the conclusions of modern psychology. The late Russell continued to object to Kant for placing epistemological knowledge inside the subject, through the ‘categories’ while leaving the extra-mental in the object itself. His ...

Two Conceptions of Philosophy: Scruton vs Williamson (Part 1)

To try and give a definition of ‘philosophy’ is as pointless as explaining how to ride a bike without inviting the person to just sit in the saddle and start pedalling. Philosophy is, first and foremost, a discursive activity and the voluble, often verbose, Socrates is its perfect embodiment. Born at a time of political turmoil and great mathematical developments, philosophy whose natural curiosity touches on every possible subject, soon found itself torn between solving moral and political issues, on ...

The Best Philosophy Books of 2017: Part 2

Two books, selected by Nigel Warburton in his choice of the best Philosophy books of 2017, focus on the best ways to achieve inner harmony and ultimate wisdom. The first one is Buddhism is True by Robert Wright who sets out to critically analyse ‘the science and philosophy of meditation and enlightenment’. Wright who previously traced the evolution of the human brain in his acclaimed Moral Animal, combines here the lessons of psychology and philosophy of religion as well as personal ...

Plato’s Republic and More’s Utopia

Although The Republic was known to scholars during the Middle Ages, the period known as the Renaissance was characterised by a rediscovery and revival (hence the term ‘renaissance’ or ‘rebirth’) of classical antiquity and its model of humanity, based on intelligence, physical courage and moral virtue. Sixteenth-century scholars like More were, indeed, well-versed in Greek and Latin classical authors but their main interest was the study of the Scripture as the key to their theological preoccupations. Thomas More’s Dutch friend, ...

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